21-22 Mayo Merriman turns over command of the Training School

May 21-22
Robert Merriman’s diary for the 21st and 22nd of May 1937

Merriman spends another night at Albacete and in the morning he meets with Marcovics who has come in for breakfast in town. Together they go to the Estado Major to talk with Vidal and Platone on the decisions made on leadership in the new Battalion.  It appears here that Walter Garland, Edward Cecil-Smith and Bill Halliwell are being recommended for leadership.  Halliwell and Garland will become Company Commanders.  Smith will not be a company commander in the new Washington Battalion.  Perhaps they were holding him back for the third Battalion to come shortly.

Merriman meets Bill Lawrence (not Bill T. – transcription error) and Lamotte at the Guard Nacionale.  Merriman must have thought he was going to get a ride back to Pozorubio with Ribley, but he did not show so he stayed until lunchtime and had a meal with Marion Merriman in the Intendencia.   He spoke with Gold (likely Irving Gold).   Frustrated by the crossed wires with Ribley, he arranges a car from Platone and is back to Pozorubio by 2 pm where he translates Ribley’s Russian lectures into English.

Merriman gets his men from Tarazona de la Mancha who were pulled out of training and sent to (probably) the non-commissioned officer’s school.  Five arrive including a Knight who had been on the lines at Jarama (there is an Allan Knight in the list of Canadians)¹.  Patrick McGuire, an Irish-Canadian, who had been at the Officer Training School, must have gotten under Merriman’s skin and sent him to join the British Battalion at Jarama.

Merriman finishes the 20th by noting that the new commandant of the training school will arrive on the 21st and that he was either a “French comrade or Italian lieutenant”.  He says he is a “good fellow”.

Patrick McGuire
Patrick McGuire, Irish/Canadian volunteer, RGASPI photo Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 170, Moscow, Russia

McGuire must not have been happy about going to the front and he and “Wolf” (probably James Wolfe, also a Canadian at the OTS) decided to get drunk to celebrate the departure.   Merriman keelhauls them, gets an apology and a plea to stay in school.  Drunkenness was rampant in the Madrigueras base at the time and this was one reason that the Americans were pulled out and sent to Tarazona (to the relief of the villagers who appreciated that the Americans who drank less than the French).   Richard Baxell relates a story from Peter Kemp who was in the opposing Nationalist Bandera at the time:

There was a grimmer side to the discipline, which reminded me how far I was from the O.T.C. The day after my arrival two troopers reported for duty incapably drunk; apparently they were old offenders. The following evening [their Catalan officer] Llancia formed the whole Squadron in a hollow square in the main barrack-room. Calling out the two defaulters in front of us, he shouted, ‘There has been enough drunkenness in this Squadron. I will have no more of it, as you are going to see.’ Thereupon he drove his fist into the face of one of them, knocking out most of his front teeth and sending him spinning across the room to crash through two ranks of men and collapse on the floor. Turning on the other he beat him across the face with a riding crop until the man dropped half senseless to the ground. He returned to his first victim, yanked him to his feet and laid open his face with the crop, disregarding his screams, until he fell inert beside his companion. Then he turned to us: ‘You have seen, I will not tolerate a single drunkard in this Squadron.’ The two culprits were hauled, sobbing, to their feet to have a half-pint of castor oil forced down their throats. They were on duty next day, but I never saw either of them drunk again.²

Not to say that drunkenness was tolerated in the Brigades.  Some Lincolns had files which reported that they had been sent to prison for one or two weeks because of being found drunk.  And their documents on leaving Spain reflected these events.  Each Brigadista had to report fully whether he had every been disciplined or arrested.  One child of a Brigadista was shown such a document from the Tamiment Archives and, while somewhat surprised, said “That does sound like him”.

The rest of the diary entry is unremarkable with time spent on the range firing rifles and the light machine guns.


¹ Petrou, Renegades, ibid, Table of Mac-Paps.

² Baxell, Unlikely Warriors,  ibid., Chapter 20.

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